BEAT THE WINTER BLUES
Winter is well and truly here: the end of the TCM year, the deep blue and black season of the Water element.
A healthy, well balanced water element allows you to feel calm and comfortable with who you are – confident in your motivations and in your ability to get things done. You wake up bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to take on the day. The less happy flip side of this is the ease with which we can slip into anxiety and negativity when the days are short and shivery.
It really is worth investing in yourself in Winter. It is a time for introspection and stabilisation: a time to acknowledge and conserve your fundamental resources. Just as we need to turn on the heater inside the house, it is imperative to keep your core fires burning. Three simple strategies should see you through: eat, sleep and move in a manner that is appropriate to the season.
This is the time for long, slow cooking. Soups, stews, casseroles, congees and slow bakes build the energy capital of the dish and break down the component foods. At your end, this means more heat and nutrition in and less digestive energy out. Why spend energy on digestion when you could be saving it for keeping yourself warm? This is the food you need to keep you being, going and doing.
Beans, vegetables and whole grains always combine well and the result tastes even better if you sprinkle some sea salt & sesame gomasio on top. This high mineral content condiment is a super support for your Water element: building teeth, bones, hair and – very importantly – the nervous system. A strong, stable nervous system helps you to stay relaxed and upbeat through the cold months.
Winter food requires a bit of planning but it is worth it. And remember, you can always cook double (or triple) portions and freeze some of it. I do this all the time with Adzuki & Pumpkin Casserole . It is the easiest winter lunch stand by I know!
EAT TIPS: You will digest better and further stabilise your nervous system if you:
- Further enhance the mineral content of your one-pot meals by cooking with some quality sea salt &/or sea weeds;
- Eat your meals early – particularly your evening meal;
- Eat your meals hot and save more of your energy for other things.
The Australian Winter is really quite short. We don’t get that many long nights so make the most of them with this very obvious Winter conservation strategy: go to bed early and sleep a lot. This is where the hot water bottle really comes into its own. (Do not waste your own precious body heat.) A pre-warmed bed is a very comfy place when it is dark and cold and building up sleep credit is always a good idea.
SLEEP TIPS: You will sleep better and build your motivational “can do” if you have:
- Properly digested your evening meal;
- Already made the important decisions about what you need to do the next day and;
- Given yourself something specific to look forward to first thing in the morning (food, social, exercise, a new scarf … all four).
In Winter it’s crucial to resist the couch potato urge and follow an exercise regime. It doesn’t have to be super demanding but, ideally, make it regular and outdoors where the air is fresh and you can clean out your head and your lungs. Plain old walking is great in Winter. If you would like to try something a little more demanding – something that will really get you in touch with your Winter energy – try these Makko Ho meridian exercises.
Winter yoga, if yoga is your thing, has two distinct sides to it. On the one hand, developing (or, dare I say, perfecting) your balance. On the other, stretching and strengthening the spine – particularly the sacral and lumbar zones – and the back of the legs.
Pretty much any kind of balance will do for building the Kidney energy. Although those that work the soles of the feet and the ankles are more advantageous. To maximise on your position, press down through the sole(s) of the foot (feet) pull up through the pelvic floor and lift up under the ears. Once you are on top of that, if you would like to really add some difficulty, you can either: press down into the ball of your foot and rise up through the ankle joint or close your eyes.
Then there are the forward bends, back arches and other moves aimed at building strength and flexibility in the spine (and thence the Bladder meridian). The Plough pose is, of course, Bladder yoga par excellence. Alternatively, you could try something as simple as holding your knees to your chest & tucking your chin in as you rock’n roll up and down the spine. (Make sure you use a mat!) Then gradually release the legs out along the mat when you are sitting up and take the movement into a gentle forward bend.
Awareness, strength and flexibility through your spine also support tranquillity in your nervous system. This, in turn, empowers you to manage the anxieties and fears that can bring you down in the cold months.